With upbeat anthems, quiet confidence, and a wicked sense of humor, Keelan Donovan knows how to light up a room. Since first hitting the road in 2014, the Maine-born and Nashville-based troubadour has logged over 600 shows across 48 states and four countries alongside the likes of Donovan Frankenreiter, Lisa Loeb, American Aquarium, and Cory Brannan as his music popped up everywhere from Spotify’s coveted “New Music Friday” and “Weekly Buzz” playlists to ABC’s Nashville and a trailer for The Hero starring Sam Elliott. His self-titled 2017 EP, Keelan Donovan [Big Yellow Dog Music/ADA], captures the engaging and enigmatic energy that defines him.
“I want people to think of me as a real person and hopefully even as a friend,” he exclaims. “I want to be approachable. That makes the songs relatable. It all comes back to that honesty and integrity of the performance on stage and in the studio. It’s a specific energy.”
Inspired by seeing a play about Buddy Holly in middle school, Keelan picked up his first guitar and started chasing that energy during eighth grade. Attending the University of Maine, he spent his weekends rocking covers at bars and frat parties, cutting his teeth in the process. Those early gigs paved the way for him to embrace songwriting.
He admits, “I thought to myself, ‘If I can make people happy on the weekends playing covers, what if I wrote my own songs and got the same reaction?’”
Around that time, he first heard “Little Lies” by Dave Barnes and learned about Belmont University in Nashville. The city ultimately called to him.
“Classic songwriting drew me there,” he says. “You come to Nashville, and it challenges you and wakes you up in a great way to be the best songwriter you can be.”
Upon graduating, he dove headfirst into Music City’s legendary scene influenced by the likes of Mat Kearney and Ingrid Michaelson. By 2013, he released the series of independent EPs that would comprise 2015’s Happenstance. He spent three straight years, averaging more than 200 shows annually. 2016 saw him ink a deal with Big Yellow Dog Music after its A&R caught a stunning and striking show.
In 2017, his self-titled debut fused lyrical storytelling, irresistible hooks, and singer-songwriter spirit driven by rich instrumentation. Right out of the gate, “In Arms Reach” amassed over 135K Spotify streams, while “Love of Mine” generated more than 256K-plus streams on the platform.
The single “Touch and Go” illuminates the expanse of his sound. Clean guitars and piano entwine as his voice takes flight on the stadium-size chant. “It’s about a real relationship,” he admits. “I’m 100% about the relationship today. Then, the next day, I might not be 100%. It’s a struggle. Love is work. It’s the most rewarding and heartbreaking thing at the same time. That’s the love I know. We all feel that push-and-pull. It’s not going anywhere.”
Ultimately, that honesty drives everything he does. It’s why listeners will want to know Keelan for a long time to come.
“I hope people can hear a message,” he leaves off. “We’re in this together. There’s a lot of crap going on in the world—especially right now. If they can listen to my songs, see my show, meet me, and realize we’re all just people, that’d be amazing. I want them to walk away with underlying hope from listening to me and seeing me.”